Carmen Martínez Novo

Center for Latin American Studies
Research Interests

Race and ethnicity, Political anthropology, Indigenous politics and rights, Political ecology, Anthropology of the state and elites, “study up” and collaborative methodologies

Geographic Expertise

Ecuador, Andes, Amazon, Mexico

Curriculum Vitae
  • Elites in Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Political Economy
  • Indigenous Ontologies
  • Culture and Environment
  • Human Rights in Global Perspective
  • Contemporary Latin American Cultures
  • Indigenous Latin America

Dr. Carmen Martinez Novo received a B.A. in Geography and History from Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in Spain, an M.A. in Historical Studies and Anthropology and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the New School for Social Research, New York. She has taught at Northeastern University, The Latin American Faculty for the Social Sciences (FLACSO) in Quito, Ecuador, and the University of Kentucky. She has been a Visiting Professor at The Johns Hopkins University, Grinnell College, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico D.F. and Universitat de Lleida in Spain. She has received grants from the American Council of Learned Societies (2017-2018), the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, and the MacArthur Foundation, among others. She has done research in Ecuador and at the Mexico-U.S. border. Her research focuses on indigenous identities, politics and rights. She has also studied racism, paternalism, the anthropology of the state and the anthropology of Latin American elites.  

Martinez Novo’s upcoming book entitled Undoing Multiculturalism: Turn to the Left, Resource Extraction and the Decline of Indigenous Rights in Ecuador will be published with the University of Pittsburgh Press. The book analyzes the paradoxical decline of multiculturalism in Ecuador under Rafael Correa’s Citizen's Revolution (2007-2017). The decline of multiculturalism under Correa is counter-intuitive because his government was part of the so-called turn to the Left in Latin America. Leaders of this political tendency claimed that their movements challenged both the tenets of neo-liberalism and the legacies of colonialism, such as racism. However, the book argues that indigenous rights did not advance in Ecuador beyond vague declarations and symbolic performances. Indigenous autonomy was severely curtailed and colonial legacies were able to come back and thrive. The book shows that the expansion of an authoritarian state on the basis of natural resource extraction underpins the reversal of multicultural policies. 

Her previous research at the Mexico-U.S. border focused on the formation of ethnic identities through intercultural interactions. On this topic, Martinez published Who Defines Indigenous? Identities, Development, Intellectuals, and the State in Northern Mexico (Rutgers University Press, 2006). The book studied the impact of non-indigenous government officials, non-governmental organizations, intellectuals, and economic elites in processes identity formation among Mixtec migrants at the Mexico-U.S. border. Who Defines Indigenous? argues that ethnic identifications do not always promote the liberation of those so labeled. In some specific contexts, ethnic identifications may be encouraged by state and non-state elites for their own purposes, such as preserving a source of cheap agricultural labor for export-oriented agribusiness.